Select Committee on European Scrutiny Twenty-Third Report


COM(01) 719

Draft Council Regulation fixing for 2002 the fishing opportunities and associated conditions for certain fish stocks and groups of fish stocks, applicable in Community waters and, for Community vessels, in waters where limitations in catch are required.

Legal base:Article 37 EC; qualified majority voting
Department:Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Basis of consideration:SEM of 4 April 2002
Previous Committee Report:HC 152-x (2001-02), paragraph 1 (12 December 2001)
Discussed in Council:17 December 2001
Committee's assessment:Politically important
Committee's decision:For debate in European Standing Committee A (decision reported on 12 December 2001)


  2.1  Each year, the Fisheries Council agrees the Total Allowable Catches (TACs) for particular fish stocks in the following calendar year, based on advice from the Advisory Committee on Fisheries Management (ACFM) of the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), and of the Commission's Scientific and Technical Committee for Fisheries. In those cases where particular fisheries are jointly managed with third countries, the Council agrees the Community share following negotiations with the countries concerned; and, once the relevant TACs for the Community as a whole have been decided or negotiated, the Fisheries Council allocates the catch between Member States in the form of national quotas according to a predetermined key. At the same time, the conditions under which the quotas may be fished are specified.

  2.2  The TACs proposed by the Commission for 2002 are set out in the current document, though, since an official text was not available when we considered them on 12 December 2001, we had to rely substantially on an Explanatory Memorandum of 5 December 2001 from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Commons) at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr Elliot Morley). This dealt in particular with:

  • TACs and national quota allocations for fish stocks in Community waters;

  • quotas for Community vessels in Third Country waters, and in international waters regulated by regional fisheries organisations; and

  • quotas for Third Country vessels in Community waters.

  2.3  The quotas proposed under each of these headings were set out in Annexes I, II and III respectively of our Report of 12 December 2001, which also dealt at some length in paragraphs 1.5 - 1.21 with the Commission's underlying thinking, the impact of the proposals on the stocks of major interest to the UK, and the approach which the Government intended to pursue in the Fisheries Council on 17 December 2001. In our conclusion, we said that, whatever the outcome in the Council, the Regulation eventually adopted would largely determine the opportunities available to the UK fishing fleet during 2002. We therefore considered that these proposals raised issues of considerable political importance, and should be debated before any decisions were taken, and we also noted that debates on the coming year's TACs had traditionally taken place on the Floor of the House, as befits the importance of the subject. However, we recognised that it would be difficult at that late stage to arrange this before the meeting of the Fisheries Council on 17 December, and that a debate on fisheries conservation had been held on the Floor on 6 December. Consequently, we thought it would be reasonable on this occasion for the debate we were recommending to take place in European Standing Committee A.

Supplementary Explanatory Memorandum of 4 April 2002

  2.4  In the event, it did not prove possible for this debate to be held before the relevant Fisheries Council, and it will in fact now take place on 23 April. In view of this, the Minister has provided in his Supplementary Explanatory Memorandum of 4 April 2002 a summary of the main changes made by the Council to the TACs proposed by the Commission in Community waters. These are set out in Annex A, where the Minister has highlighted the abandonment of the "unjustified" further cuts in the nephrops TACs, a 48 percent increase in the TAC for cod in the Irish Sea (made possible by conservation measures previously taken there), and a "valuable mitigation of the punitive cuts proposed by the Commission in the TACs for monkfish". He concludes that overall the final agreement was more favourable to the UK, and was more in line with scientific advice.


  2.5  We have of course already reported at some length on the Commission's original proposals, and their implications for the UK industry had they been adopted as they stood. We are therefore simply drawing to the attention of the House this further information and setting out the TACs actually agreed by the Fisheries Council, which are relevant to the debate which has now been arranged — albeit very belatedly — in European Standing Committee A on 23 April.

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